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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Oceanic Nine

Knowing that I'll be missing the first part of tonight's LOST season premiere due to a prior engagement, I decided to take a sneak peek at a possible, very plausible plot rundown of tonight's episode. As much as I have faith in my VCR to record everything, I'm not 100 percent it will. Plus, it just wouldn't make sense to tune in at 8:15 and know what all's going on. (And yes, I know I just referred to two of the cursed "numbers.")

Normally I stay away from spoiler sites, but since LOST has so much going on, it helps to look at each episode a few times. The planted easter eggs alone are worth checking out.

Without turning this into a total geekfest discussion, I do want to point out something: the marketing of a certain, lingering Season 4 question. No, it's not "How do they get off the island?" Nor is it "Who's the 'he' Kate referred to in the flash-forward?" Rather, it's "Who are the Oceanic 6?" There's plenty of speculation online and since there are billboards up around the country, I couldn't help but think of another show that had a similar marketing tactic: The Nine. You do remember The Nine don't you?

Not that I'm making any fearful forecasts about LOST's next three seasons, but I'm just wondering if this is a coincidence. The whole ploy of The Nine was that nine strangers, held up in a bank for over 52 hours, all share these secrets that would hopefully be revealed over many episodes. An interesting premise, but after a couple of episodes, I had enough and stopped watching. I remembered why I liked LOST in the first place: engaging characters and storylines without one-note characters.

Think of it this way, if the LOST series started with the events shown in "Through the Looking Glass" (aka, Season 3's final episode and first overall with flash-forwards), I'm not so sure I'd really want to watch more than that episode. In other words, having the series begin with a sad and lonely guy hooked on painkillers doesn't hook me in like seeing survivors of plane crash trying to survive.

Why I bring all this up is that I'm thankful a show like LOST is still on the air. It may annoy people that it doesn't answer every question in a timely fashion, but hey, it at least it has gone beyond three seasons and doesn't seem to be losing steam.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Clarity

In my never-ending quest to get the word out on POST, I understand there will be people who will not understand my book, my influences or just me in general. Such is life, right? Well, sometimes I get some rather terse feedback from people and I attempt to clarify myself.

A recent case involves an e-mail conversation I had with a person about American Hardcore, the book and documentary. What seemed to start off as an elitist tiff turned into a really engaging conversation about telling different sides of a big story. We reached some insightful common ground and I'm glad I didn't write off this person's views (and the same with mine).

So why call attention to this? Well, I got to wondering if somebody approached me and said Nothing Feels Good was his or her's favorite book. How would I respond and what would I say?

For starters, I'd say I still don't like Andy's book, but I would probably not get up in arms with people who do. If I ever went so far and say I hated anyone who liked his book, I'd be down a few friends, writers I respect and a few blog readers. We can absolutely agree to disagree, but I'm not one to let a possibly good conversation about clarification go to the wayside. (Of course, this is much to do with the free time I have and how much of it I'd like to spend explaining myself. To me, there's always time to clarify.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The best news I've heard today . . .

From Punknews.org:

Influential punk act face to face have announced that they will be reuniting for at least one performance at Bamboozle Left. The band will be performing on Saturday, April 5th at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine California.

Along with the confirmation, the band's management notes that the bill will feature the four piece line-up for the band: Trever Keith, Scott Shiflett, Chad Yaro and Pete Parada. While there are no immediate plans for a full scale tour or further recordings, the band will be playing select festival dates in the U.S. and internationally.

Frontman Trever Keith has also announced plans to release a new solo album. Titled Melancholics Anonymous, the record aims to pick up where the band's 1999's album Ignorance is Bliss left off. Keith will also be performing solo dates beginning on March 8th, 2008.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Q: "How will you live, John?" A: "Day by day."

Over the weekend, after reading about Zach's time at the movies with Rambo, I suddenly flashed back to second grade. Moreover, when Rambo: First Blood Part II was out in theaters. All sorts of merchandising was available, including action figures, a cartoon and even a coloring/activity book. How I remember those particular items is because I had an action figure (complete with helicopter), watched the cartoon on TV and received the coloring book as a prize in my second grade class.

Why I bring this up is mainly disbelief. An activity book for kids based on an R-rated movie filled with violence? Do they still do stuff like this? Really? But at the same time, I'm not trying to be a prude about it. Moreover, this reminds me of how kids have their own minds. And merely having something like this does not mean the kid will grow up to be some deviant of society.

I definitely wouldn't call my parents' parenting style strict, but as fair, tactful and well-intentioned with boundaries. Of course, I developed a loner mentality early on and was not seduced by trouble from fellow kids my age. More than anything, I didn't want to let my parents down or make them angry. I was essentially a goody-two-shoes and to an extent, still am (along with hard-headed stubbornness). So exposure to those Rambo products, along with Robocop and Chuck Norris, did not warp my morals.

Whenever I hear overly-concerned parents/adults get all up in arms about how children might respond to something, I tend to get up in arms. Seems like all children are impressionable lemmings with no moral values. They have no intuition and cannot think for themselves. It's the parents' job to monitor everything they see and do and if there's anything that goes wrong, it's all the parents' fault. I simply can't stand behind or believe this.

I don't think there's one magic formula that works for all kids, but it helps when the parents actually care about the well-being of their child or children. But what do I know, being almost thirty with no kids of my own? Well, I still remember what it was like to be a kid -- and I remember being annoyed when I was talked down to by adults.

Whenever I'm around kids aged from toddlers to teenagers, I'm aware their brains/thoughts are not that of an adult's just yet. But that doesn't mean kids should be treated like they're stupid and don't have a natural sense of wrong and right.

My point in all this armchair philosophizing is, kids can be smarter than you and not as smart as you. Exposure to mature, adult themes in movies and books do not automatically lead to a downhill, slippery slope where all good morals are thrown out the window. And yes, Rambo kicks a lot of ass.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Slint meets Kool and the Gang

Whenever I see a certain way of describing bands I've never heard, I get rather cagey. More specifically, when there's the "RIYL" (recommended-if-you-like) or the "You like? You'll like" tactic and three or four bands that sound very similar to one another are listed. For example, "if you like Strung Out, NOFX and the Vandals, you'll dig the Shipping Wrecks." As I've blogged before on this topic, I'm more likely to pull out my copies of Twisted By Design and Punk in Drublic than be fooled into thinking the Shipping Wrecks will rock my world as much.

I'll put it like this, substituting music for ice cream. "If you like fudge, coffee and dark chocolate, you'll like dark fudge chocolate." Thanks, but I think I can get my chocolate fix with just chocolate.

My point is, I don't think there's much variation in the ingredients to make me think, "Hey, I should check this out."

When I think about the kinds of descriptions that made me very curious about bands, they definitely weren't delivered this way. Be it Aaron's brief description of the Get Up Kids as a poppy hardcore band or Travis Morrison's description of the Dismemberment Plan as "Slint meets Kool and the Gang," I'm hearing about elements that are rather random and unconventional being put together.

These days, when I tell people about the kinds of music I dig, I try to avoid making the aforementioned descriptions. For people who've never heard the Dillinger Escape Plan and dislike most metal music, I say they sound like a raging fit. For people who've never heard Scott Walker's early solo work, I start off by saying it sounds like crooner music that's actually really good.

I think it would be a disservice to people I don't know to say, "Hey kids, if you like Jens Lekman, you'll dig Scott Walker!" (Though I should mention Ryan suggested I check out Lekman after I played him Walker's "Montague Terrace." Needless to say, I'm now a huge fan of "I Remember Every Kiss." But the key difference was, this was a personal recommendation by a friend who wasn't trying to shove Lekman down my throat.)

Maybe it's just me or maybe I'm misinterpreting the intent here. Maybe just the recognizable name mention is supposed to catch more attention. To me, that makes me want to listen and see if the band is as good, if not better. Rarely does that benefit anybody for me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stacked to the rafters

If you're looking for a complete review of last night's Foo Fighters show at AAC, look here. As somebody who had to split halfway into their two-and-a-half hour set (the 4am wake-up call meant I had to cut out at 11, right after "Cold Day in the Sun"), I can't give a full review. However, I'll share some random musings of what I saw.

-Against Me! put on a short set where they played almost all of New Wave, including the couple of songs I could really care never to hear again, along with a couple of songs from Searching for a Former Clarity. Zilch from Cowboy or Axl Rose, but this was not a proper, full-on AM! set. It was great to finally see them play live, but certain vocal people around me were just not into them. And they made it known. And it was annoying.

-One of these new non-AM! fans -- wearing a Lamb of God shirt, no less -- felt the band "sucked" because they sounded like "GWAR without the theatrics." What the hell is that supposed to mean? Well, I later heard him be all excited that Alice in Chains has reunited with a new singer and is touring and making a new album.

-Jimmy Eat World played a pretty spot-on zip-through of their most upbeat material from Bleed American, Futures and Chase This Light. But like when I saw them last time (where they pulled out Static Prevails' "Seventeen" to much of my delight), they pulled out Clarity's "Blister," much to my delight.

-Couple songs into Jimmy Eat World's set, a rather loud (and possibly drunk/high) female near me screamed for "old shit." Thinking maybe she wanted to hear "Lucky Denver Mint" or "Rockstar," I was wrong. She wanted "The Middle." It was then I realized how at least three generations of fans have gone through this band since 1994. I'm sure there's somebody somewhere who pines for "Chachi" and "Cars" to be played again . . .

-When I last saw the Foo Fighters, Franz Stahl was playing guitar for them and There's Nothing Left to Lose had yet to be recorded. So, four records later, I finally see them again.

-I gotta commend the Foos for playing a relatively unpredictable setlist. A sign that it wasn't a "greatest hits" kind of show: they pulled out Dave's Nirvana b-side "Marigold" and it was pretty fantastic. They even played "This is a Call." As far as material from their latest album, I really dug "Cheer Up Boys (Your Make-Up is Running)," making me reconsider giving the album another listen.

-The split-stage reminded me of Metallica's 1991 tour. Being on the floor, I had a pretty good view until they moved to the other stage for the acoustic set. I didn't want to lose my spot, so I stayed put.

Overall, this was not a bad show at all. I was pretty amped as I headed home and I only got about three hours of sleep. Yet today wasn't really a drag at all. Though the afternoon nap really helped . . .

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger tributes

Just wanted to pass along some pretty well-written tributes to Heath Ledger. I know I usually write a lot of words, but this is a topic that's a little hard for me to write about.

Jim Emerson from the Chicago Sun-Times

Former MTV VJ Iann Robinson

Harry Knowles

On Ledger's post-production work on The Dark Knight

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nothing Good is Real

As I browsed Amazon yesterday for Archers of Loaf albums and that relatively-new Superdrag b-sides album, Changin' Tires on the Road to Ruin, I came across a full-blown rip-off: a used CD copy of Superdrag's Senorita EP for $79.88. Yup, that's $15.98 per song. Checking the site again today, it's still listed, as well as the option to buy the EP on MP3 for a whopping total of $4.95. That got me thinking about a recent SOMB thread discussing how far certain people would go to pay for something rare on CD. In short, a lot has changed -- thankfully -- due to MP3s and file-sharing.

I recall in high school when Metallica's Garage Days Re-Revisted EP and Elektra's reissue of Kill 'Em All with two bonus tracks were prized treasures among my friends. You couldn't hear this stuff anywhere else, and the songs were good. These usually ran for $20-$40 each and were hard to find. Of course, relief came a few years later with the band re-releasing the material (along with new material) in the form of Garage, Inc. But it was Napster (you remember that thing that Lars, Dr. Dre and Filter wanted to be stopped?) that saved our asses even more.

Right before the tipping point with MP3 file-sharing, probably one of my most sought-after albums was Jawbreaker's Dear You. Long out-of-print and doubtful to ever be released on CD again, eBay auctions routinely closed at $50 a pop for a single copy. I ended up paying out of the nose to get a copy from Canada ($27 after taxes, et al), but I had to have a copy. These days, I wouldn't ever consider doing such a thing.

Coupled with all that time when Sam Goody and Musicland carried new, single CDs at $17.99, I'm surprised the music industry got away with highway robbery for so long. But then again, this was the after-market, trading world where music nerds converged. Plenty of people ate well for a while because of this. Now I wonder what they're up to.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Because it's Monday . . .

I posted the following to my MySpace friends last Friday. I figured I'd share this here as well. It's a real survey passed through the site asking about your Top Friend on your list. And yes, I'm well aware this is a survey for your main squeeze/BFF/etc. Here's to having some fun . . .

Can you answer 39 questions about the 1st person on your top friends list?

1) What’s their name?
POST: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007

2) Does he or she have a boyfriend/girlfriend??
Nope. It will be single forever.

3)Do you get along with this person all the time?
Most of the time, yes.

4) How old is the person?
Four years old as of March 1st.

5) Has he/she ever cooked for you?
Nope, but a lot of the material cooks.

6) Is this person older than you?
Nope, I've got 24 years on it.

7) Have you ever kissed this person?
Can't kiss a virtual Word file . . . yet.

9) Are you related to this person?
Yes: it came from my head after a pile a shingles hit my head.

10) Are you really close to him/her?
Very, very much.

11) Nickname?
The book.

12) How many times do you talk to this person in a week?
A few times a day.

13) Do you think they will repost this?
Probably not.

14) Could you live with this person?
Yes, we've been living together for four years.

15) Why is this person your number 1?
Because it's been a big part of my life and will probably always be.

16) How long have you known this person??
Four years and counting.

17) Have you ever been to the mall with this person?
Nope, I'm too cautious about taking virtual files out of my computer.

18) Have you ever had a sleepover with this person?
Todos los dias y noches.

19) If you ever moved away would you miss this person?
Yes.

20) Have you ever done something really stupid or illegal with this person?
Kind of. Does doing interviews guerrilla-style count?

21) Do you know everything about this person?
Pretty much.

22) Would you date this person’s siblings?
Nope.

23) Have you ever made something with this person?
Lots of pages returned with red and blue ink.

24) Have you gone skinny dipping with this person?
Not yet.

25) Is your #1 on drugs?
Nope.

26) Have you ever worn this person’s clothes?
Nope.

27) Have you and your #1 person made up a hand shake?
Nope.

28) If it was “freaky friday” would you switch bodies with this person?
Nope.

29) Have you ever heard this person sing?Yes, it does a pretty great rendition of "Fooled Around and Fell in Love."

30) Do you and this person have a saying?
FINISH ME!

31) Do you know this person's MySpace password?
Yup.

32) Have you and this person ever gotten into a fight that lasted more than 2 months?
Nope, but we did take a few weeks break last year.

33) Have you and this person gone clubbing?
Yeah, I tend to mention this everywhere.

34) Do you know how to make this person feel happy?
Yes. It happens when I edit it.

35) Do you and this person talk a lot?Yes. Every single day.

36) Has this person yelled at you?
No. I yell at it.

37) Have you and this person got into a fist fight?
Nope.

38) Do you want to go out with this person?
Yes, when it gets published!

39) Do you want to be friends with them forever?
Hell yes!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The last advance screening

There was a time when I saw advance screenings of movies. The gig I had at the time received passes in the mail almost every week, and I was usually offered one. Depending on my availability and if I wanted to see the movie, I'd consider going. Most of the time, the passes were for movies I had zero interest in, so I'd pass. But when it was a movie I wanted to see, I jumped for joy. I got to see The Matrix Reloaded, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Dreamcatcher a few days before they opened nationwide. Yet the last advance screening I saw was one that really tainted my view of going to advance screenings: Gothika.

I didn't go in with high hopes for this Halle Berry vehicle, but I figured I'd at least enjoy myself. I didn't think the movie was bad, nor did I think it was great. The tainted feelings though, came from the people sitting around me.

Since available seats were snatched up really quickly, I grabbed the closest seat to my preferred spot (middle seat in the middle section). Right after I sat down, I heard the people behind me talking shop. I realized I had parked myself in front of a row of movie critics and the ones behind me sounded like they had zero interest in seeing this movie or pretty much any movie that was made for the lowest common denominator. I wouldn't say this was just like the scene in Annie Hall where Alvy listens to a man behind him talk about a Fellini film, but it had its similarities.

Not only that, but I got the sense that most of the audience was there simply because it was a free movie. That said, some people were really into the movie and some really weren't. And I realized this when certain jumpy, gotcha! moments came. In one instance, a scare made some people fidget and holler. Immediately following this, a louder group of people laughed at them.

So here I am sandwiched between all of this, realizing I'm in a crowd of people who would not normally pay to see this movie. I was one of them too, so I'm not off the hook. But there's a reason why I don't pine for this experience. I'm so picky with seeing any movie in a theater; I want to enjoy myself and not feel caged in. So I prefer afternoon matinees of newly-released movies or evening showings of movies that have been out for a while and see it with a friend.

Why all this seems so odd to me is because I used to see a lot of movies in the theater. Be it with my parents or friends, I saw a lot of stuff on the big screen in its first run. In the last few years, I've seen an average of three movies a year in a theater. I've explained my reasons why before, but still, it's odd how this stuff changed and has remained almost unchanged ever since.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lynch, Freebird and Philosophy

As I've mentioned before, I don't get a lot of my philosophy on life from Philosophy 101 books. If anything, it's from all kinds of places, but not from the books my mother assigns to her students. Chuck Klosterman is a still big influence on me even though I've only read his first book, Fargo Rock City, once.

In the last few months, I've added David Lynch and Lynyrd Skynyrd to my list of influences. As far-fetched as that sounds, I have plenty of reasons why Lynch's Catching the Big Fish book and a story about the writing of "Freebird" have helped me not overthink and second-guess myself.

While he gets a lot of looks these days for his views on product placement and the iPhone, I find a lot of what Lynch allows to be a breath of fresh air. I'm not about to make dream-like movies or start meditating, but his grounded look at life resonates with my look at life. Maybe it's due to the fact that we were both raised Presbyterian, but I'm not sure.

He's told the story of how Frank Silva was cast as Bob in Twin Peaks (he was a set dresser who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, even if he was accidentally in the reflection during a Mrs. Palmer freak-out) and how the "In Dreams" segment in Blue Velvet had a certain light in it (the lamp was there on the set and he decided to use it on the spot) many times. But there's a theme I get from them: if you come up with a good idea -- doesn't matter where, when or how --- don't overthink it and just go with it.

In my case, if it's a matter of inviting a newly-made friend out to a party, getting mutes for my drumset, or merely suggesting a great album to a longtime friend, I try that before all sorts of doubt and second-guessing creep in my head.

Another line he's often used is on focusing on the donut instead of the donut's hole. In the case of his films, the donut is writing of the script and the experience of making the film. The hole represents box office numbers, mixed audience reactions, mixed movie reviews, and so on. In other words, the focus is on the experience of making something rather than the feedback after you've made something.

Another one is a passage from the "Fear" chapter:

I hear stories about directors who scream at actors, or they trick them somehow to get a great performance. And there are some people who try to run the whole business on fear. But I think this is such a joke -- it's pathetic and stupid at the same time . . . If I ran my set with fear, I would get 1 percent, not 100 percent, of what I get.

I agree completely with that work ethic. I've never been in a 100 percent terrible work environment, but there's a reason why I try to not chew out co-workers, editors or bandmates. I've seen people be ripped apart for being human and that's just not the way I like to treat others. And if you think Lynch can't get a great performance out of his actors this way, just watch Naomi Watts in Mulholland Dr.

So, where does the "Freebird" stuff factor in? Well, I remember reading an article in Guitar World a few years ago about how it was written. As the band wrote its various parts, they had trouble remembering everything they had written. In response, I believe Ronnie Van Zant said, "If you can't remember it, it's not worth remembering."

Coupling that with Lynch's attitude about going with an idea, there's a big influence for a lot of my blog posts and ideas I put into my books. I'll come up with an idea, and if I think it's good and can remember it, I go forward with it.

These may sound like strange bedfellows, but that's how I connect a lot of stuff in my head. I don't think I would have been able to do the same if had to read Socrates and Descartes for school.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The lowest part is free, but he can't leave home.

Here's another acclaimed band that I've never heard much of, but suddenly want to hear much more of: Archers of Loaf. I have plenty of reasons why, almost ten years since their final album, I've never really investigated them until now.

I distinctly remember a particular trip down to Austin years ago to visit my friends and I spent an afternoon/evening raiding Matt's CD collection to make some mix CDs. These were the days of 16x being the fastest CD burning speed and sites like YouSendIt and MegaUpload were not around. We weren't aware of burning a data CD filled with albums, so I had to be rather choosy with what I wanted to rip. Plus, I had a lot to choose from.

It was then I was introduced to the wonderful first two albums by Gomez, as well as b-sides from Idlewild, Built to Spill and Superdrag. Perusing the Mallrats soundtrack, I came across Archers of Loaf's "Web in Front" and frankly didn't like it. Since I had all sorts of other stuff to peruse, I moved on. Matt was a little surprised I was not taken with the Loaf since our music tastes are very similar, but I figured I'd rope back around to them. But I didn't think it'd be eight years.

Going through Noel's second week of no new music yesterday, I came upon a favorable write-up on AoL and as a bonus, an MP3 of "Lowest Part is Free!" Suddenly everything seemed to click and now I'm entering the "want to hear everything from this band" phase. But before I get to that, I think about why I missed out on a band like this.

For starters, this isn't 1995, so I wouldn't confuse the "Lowest Part is Free!" video with similar-looking videos by slightly similar-sounding bands like Superchunk, Pavement or Chavez while watching 120 Minutes. Second of all, after enjoying vocal-straining bands like Jawbreaker and Leatherface for years, I can now appreciate Eric Bachmann's vocals. Third and final (for now), I'm not seeing their name everywhere everyday on every blog I read, Pitchfork or Punknews.org. I guess I just prefer to listen at my leisure instead of trying to stay on top in hopes of being "relevant" or "hip."

Now I start thinking about some modern bands I've glanced over in the last few months but have yet to really check out. Do we really know if the Oaks will be as highly lauded in ten years just as much as AoL is now? Do we really know if Jay Reatard will be considered a trailblazing artist in five years? The answer I have is no and trying to make such predictions is just something I'm not one to hedge bets on. I'm too busy just taking my time, usually listening to Dillinger Escape Plan, the Pipettes and Scott Walker over and over.

Monday, January 14, 2008

(Not) Under Pressure

There's a lot of freedom in doing anything -- a record, label, painting, book, movie -- yourself. The pressure's apparently off and it's easy to think anything you make will be worthwhile to others. Well, as liberating as it is, my advice is to not half-ass it.

This idea clicked in my head about a month ago as I painted a holiday-themed painting for Donna and her family. I was inspired to make my own kind of design after seeing a friend's black and white painting of a flower. All I knew was, I wanted to paint the background gray and go from there. What I ended up with was a camouflage-like background behind a tree blowing in the wind.

Between painting the background and the finished product, I thought about how much was too much and what was too little. At one point, I thought I should stop with a gray background and black arrow pointing up. I'm very satisfied that I kept going.

The point in all of this is: nobody was telling me what to do, but that didn't mean I should have started and stopped with the first notion that came into my head. Now, not to sound like that line in Annie Hall where two partygoers are talking shop ("Right now, it's only a notion. But I think I can get money to make it into a concept. And later turn it into an idea."), but I think a big catalyst behind the DIY ethic is the drive to start and finish something.

I'm so glad that I didn't put Post out three years ago. I did plenty of research by then, but not a whole lot of interviews. Moreover, I was especially lacking in the department of making cohesive sentences and paragraphs. So it was very helpful that Nick's Mission Label partner at the time suggested more work to be done. Of course, we didn't know it would be a few more years of work.

As I approach the four-year mark on this book, I feel very safe to share what all I've uncovered with these bands and labels. What I hope to be the final of final edits is happening as we speak, but the only real pressure is coming from myself. There's no editor or deadlines; two sources that can be really strong motivators to get stuff done. Without them, they can also often let things fall to the wayside.

Maybe it's the degree of self-critique one has to have, I don't know. But it's crazy how just having the desire to finish something is a feat in itself. What drives me is to satisfy my desire but not be lazy with the finished product. There's a fine line between selling yourself short and bending over backwards to please others. Where people find the path down this is probably one of the more rewarding and frustrating parts of the journey.

Friday, January 11, 2008

This week in comments

Usually when I leave comments on other blogs, I keep the content short. This week was different.

On the topic of visiting the dentist:
There was a time in high school when I really disliked "the pick." Pure pain. Somehow closing my eyes and thinking of Pantera's "I'm Broken" got me through the experience. Yup, Pantera.

For the last few years, I've enjoyed my trips to the dentist. I like the people that work there and they are very kind to me.

On the topic of TiVO HD:
I still feel satisfied with my TV's rabbit ears and VCR. The only channel I clearly get is ABC, so it helps when I tape LOST and watch the Charlie Brown holiday specials.

If I had cable, I'd watch a lot of TV, leaving little time for me to write, read books, exercise, play drums, watch DVDs, surf the Internet -- all things I love to do.

In other words, I'm a long way from TiVo HD.

On the topic of having difficulty with transcribing interviews:
I still use a Walkmen-style tape recorder for my interviews. Kyle couldn't believe it when I told him. He said, "once you go digital, you'll never go back." I'm still not sold. Plus, I'm really stubborn.

Well, everything was great and reliable until I didn't notice the battery was going out. (Yes, my fault instead of the recorder.) Nothing like transcribing interviews with Brian Baker, Nate Mendel and Jeremy Enigk (aka, people I had to really track down for a book interview) and they sound like they were in a wind tunnel. Luckily everything was audible, except the last twenty minutes of my interview with Jeremy. Oh well, the most important stuff came out.

Anyway, I find transcribing difficult when the person constantly says "Um," "You know" and "And." And/or when the person gives rapid-fire answers. I can only imagine how crazier it would be if English was the person's second language.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Into the Night

Well, it took two months, but I finished watching all of the episodes in the Twin Peaks box set a few weeks ago. To wrap things up, I watched Fire Walk With Me last weekend. I don't mean to sound like this was the equivalent of watching the ten-hour version of Greed or the eight-hour version of Birth of a Nation, but watching the whole thing seemed like quite an undertaking. Thankfully, it wasn't, even in the episodes after you find out who killed Laura Palmer.

Make no mistake, the show's momentum loses steam once that is revealed, but I didn't find the remaining episodes as bad as people made them out to be. To top that off, I found Fire Walk With Me to be a pretty enjoyable coda.

Just merely saying all that seems like I have to raise my defenses up high, but hear me out.

For a lot of directors, I tend to get into their filmographies in a real sideways fashion. In the case of Lynch, I saw Mulholland Drive first and not too long after it appeared on DVD. I didn't see any of his other work until last year, when I saw Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, INLAND EMPIRE, Eraserhead, and The Elephant Man, along with reading Lynch On Lynch and Catching the Big Fish. So with processing Lynch's themes and motivations, I have a bit of different perspective than say an audience member at Cannes in 1992 hoping Fire Walk With Me continued the story following season two's cliffhanger episode.

I understand people's frustrations with Lynch with how he tends to confuse more than clarify. Well, I actually like how he makes matters more obtuse and dream-like instead of abundantly clear. He's a rare exception for me.

But back to the show itself, I argue the series had breathing space following "Arbitrary Law." Pretty much every relationship (affair or non-affair) evolves and plays out, mostly to satisfying conclusions. But like in life, you take the good with the not-so-good. The not-so-enjoyable (but not horrible) is the camp factor being raised. Some recurring guest stars are great and some are not, but not to the point where I wanted to give up watching the show. I understood the show wasn't Mark Frost's or Lynch's at that point because they were busy doing other projects. So I gave everything plenty of leeway.

Fire Walk With Me, the prequel meant to be seen after the series, fills in a lot holes about Laura Palmer's final days. Sure, the stuff only alluded to in the show (drug-taking, promiscuity) is right there in front of you, but it was good to see that stuff. Sure, the quirky humor from the show is mostly absent, but this is Laura's story, not Cooper's story.

I could defend all this for on and on, but my point is, I did not find the show's decline as tragically bad as people claimed. The pilot, first season, and first half of the second season are the strongest, making things to be rather difficult to top. I would even go so far as liking the show overall more than the beloved Six Feet Under. That was a show I loved for its first two seasons, but soon lost interest shortly into the third season, and have never doubled-back to. Yes, I said that, but defending my reasons is for another time.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten

I think the first time I ever heard about the Replacements was well after they had broken up. As a matter of fact, thanks to the Singles soundtrack, I heard about Paul Westerberg a few years before I heard about or even heard any music from the Replacements. Yes, I'm one of those Nineties kids that heard "Dyslexic Heart" before "Bastards of Young," but I've been playing catch-up for the last ten years.

Part of catching up was reading (and re-reading) the band's chapter in Our Band Could Be Your Life. Helping fill in more of the story was Jim Walsh's recently-released oral history, All Over But the Shouting.

Overall, I think Walsh did a fine job in creating a compelling look back at the band. The entire tenure of the band is covered, from the shambolic beginning to the slow, running-out-of-gas end. (As a sign of the book's effectiveness, I've been digging out my copies of the first five albums, as well as the All for Nothing compilation, since I finished reading it.)

My main caveat is how the book is devoted more to friends and fan recollections, so I didn't get to really know what it was like to be in the band. None of the surviving original members agreed to do an interview for various reasons, but there are quotes sprinkled in from old interviews, mostly from Westerberg. Plus, there's a loose sense of time as one big event seems to quickly follow the other. Praise for Let It Be is followed by some quotes about them signing to Sire and then putting out Tim. I don't know if it all flowed exactly like that back in the day, but then again, this was a band who put out four albums and one mini-album in five years.

Plenty is revealed here. In particular, it was really interesting to get insight from Slim Dunlap and Steve Foley about their replacement roles in the band. That helped tremendously filling in the band's story following the Let It Be/Tim years. But probably the best filling-in-the-gaps section was the chapter devoted to Bob Stinson's final years. As someone who received small obituaries in major magazines back in the day, Walsh uses plenty of ink in tribute, including the eulogy he gave at Stinson's funeral.

All Over But the Shouting satisfied me, giving me a better understanding of why the band struck a chord back in the day and still strikes a chord. I wasn't so sure I'd ever understand what was so compelling about the band when they were around. Having the chance to read about the context helped monumentally.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Money talks, but it don't sing and dance and it don't walk

An update on my recent perusal of the iTunes store: I added a few more songs to the library over the weekend. I'm down to a few dollars left on the gift card and I'm unsure as to what else I should purchase. For now, here's a review of the latest.

"America," "September Morn" and "Forever in Blue Jeans" by Neil Diamond
One of Neil Diamond's greatest hits collections was a staple of many family car trips growing up. So were collections of Simon & Garfunkel and John Denver hits. I never disliked any of these songs, but once I got my own Walkman, I kinda went off into my own world. Now these songs are on my iPod. Is this progress?

"Cats in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin
It still amazes how maudlin songs were regulars on the pop charts in the Seventies. (See also Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" and Eric Carmen's "All By Myself" for starters.) Of course, Ugly Kid Joe's version in the Nineties seemed to fit in with grungy gloom. Chapin's original still sticks with me though.

"Sleeping Awake" by P.O.D.
There are certain moments in P.O.D.'s songs that have a certain melodic bite. Forty-three seconds into this track (the "do you see what I see" part) caught me as I watched the Matrix Reloaded credits roll in the theater. I can't say it changed my opinion of the band overall, but I've always dug this song.

"Pay to Cum" by Bad Brains
This version from the American Hardcore soundtrack is also known as the 7" version, one of three different recorded versions. Though it's slower than the ROIR version, I prefer this one above all. H.R. doesn't rush through his lyrics and the band sounds tighter. It's sure nice to have this version to replace my crappy-sounding MP3 that I downloaded back in college.

"(Nothing But) Flowers" by Talking Heads (video)
I credit Clerks II and my interview with Nate Mendel for why I got into this song. I'm not so sure I'm at a point where I can jump headfirst into Talking Heads, so I'm taking this one song at a time, months at a time.

"Mein" by Deftones (video)
Despite really digging White Pony back when it came out, my interest in the Deftones has been a song-by-song since then. I never checked out Deftones or Saturday Night Wrist, but caught wind of a few tracks along the way. This one in particular grabs me immediately with its drum fill and chord progression. I'm glad to see the band has aged well despite some of their contemporaries.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Is the man half-machine or is the machine half-man?

As I anxiously awaited the arrival of my copy of Blade Runner on DVD (yup, I shelled out the $55 for the five-disc edition), I read a few online reviews: Keith's, IGN's and DVDFile's. With it arriving at my doorstep on Thursday, I've just begun to go through the five different versions of the film, along with a few hours of documentaries on the film. Even at this point, I find the collection to be the final, definitive word on a great film.

One lingering question addressed in the supplements -- a question that so many fans have asked since 1982 -- never crossed my mind back when I saw the "Director's Cut" and the theatrical cut back in college and still doesn't cross my mind: you know, is Deckard a replicant?

There are plenty of clues that prove Deckard is one, but as Frank Darabont eloquently points out in one of the documentaries, there are reasons why Deckard isn't one. To me, that's not really what the movie's about. It's a love story set in a grim and dark world. Whether or not Deckard is a machine with human feelings doesn't change my feelings about the film. Plus, the film is still a marvel to look at, thanks in part to Ridley Scott.

I bring all this up not to start a "is he" or "isn't he" debate. Rather, it's about not falling victim to what vocal, nitpicky fans talk about online. You'd think all Star Wars fans will never forgive George Lucas for making Greedo shoot first. You'd think all Lord of the Rings fans will never forgive Peter Jackson for taking Saruman's death out of the Return of the King theatrical cut. Alas, there are the people that don't care to speak up in these kinds of debates. That includes me. So why speak up at all?

Well, a big reason is to speak up about stuff that not a lot of other people bring up. It's so easy to write about what pisses you off or amuses you. I definitely write about that stuff, but I try to communicate it a way that sounds more like me rather than anyone else. Isn't that a point of desire to write anyway?

Roping back around to Blade Runner, by the end of the movie, the replicants are retired and our two lovers escape their situation. Not answering the question doesn't change the outcome, at least to me.

For your reading pleasure

A post filled with content is forthcoming today, but for the time being, check this out. It's the first week of Noel forgoing listening to new music so he can go through his large music library. The task of doing this for all 52 weeks is arduous, but reading about it is not.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Somebody thought of that and someone believed it

Scott over at Popdose wrote an incredibly heartfelt screed about one of his all-time favorite songs, "Rainbow Connection." I identify with many of his thoughts, especially about the movie it's found in:

Anyone who doesn’t like The Muppet Movie does not have a soul — it’s just a wonderful movie on so many levels. Despite its hip cast and the slew of one-liners and cameos, it’s a movie about hope, pure and simple.

Why this song and movie still resonate with me is for a number of explainable and unexplainable reasons. One explainable reason is that I still have a soft spot for certain melancholy music. Some people call this pure schmaltz, but I've never thought of it that way. I've just thought of it as an effective way of conveying vulnerable feelings.

But probably the biggest explainable reason is the central message I get out of The Muppet Movie: don't give up on your passions. Moreover, hope survives despite detractors in the form of self-centered flakes and money-grubbing jerks. That's not to literally mean any determined frog can make it in Hollywood. Rather, the secret to life lies in the relationships you have with people and the relationship with your inner voice.

This was definitely not something I thought about when I was younger. But when I saw the movie again ten years ago, I realized how much of the movie was like a guide to life. And it's still stuck with me. And I think it's why I also relate to stories like the ones behind the Flaming Lips, David Lynch and Kevin Smith.

As for all the unexplainable reasons, I leave them to a Louis Armstong quote: "There are some folks that, if they don't know, you can't tell 'em."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Reactive Mind

Recall me saying a few weeks ago, "at least I'm happy I've never read a book with advertising in the manuscript itself"? Well, that's not true anymore.

About a week after I wrote that line, I came across a book that had a couple of advertisements between the pages. And that book was none other than L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics. Featuring removable cards for Scientology-related matters, they were placed in various spots in the book. Seeing all this reminds me of a superstition I have: don't announce certain things because they may come true.

Seems like whenever I think (and say aloud), "Man, I haven't caught a cold in a long time," I come down with a cold. Sometimes when I think about somebody I haven't heard from in a while, I hear from that person or hear something about him or her. This doesn't happen very often, but when it does, I wonder.

I wouldn't say this is like in cheesy horror movies when a character says, "Hey, the killer's not here" and the killer immediately appears. No, it's just a weird form of unexplainable serendipity.

Quick PSA

Jeff Giles (aka, the Jeff of Jefitoblog, aka, blogger friend who posted four of my Complete Idiot's Guides) is back blogging on a new site called Popdose. Fellow blogger Py Korry also contributes, as well as ten other people.

Donna answers another question I had about life: Is it really possible to be a responsible parent and not become some brainless zombie ala Dawn of the Dead?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

Whenever I receive an iTunes gift card as a present, I have this sense of relief. Meaning, I can get songs I love that I normally wouldn't purchase. Usually I have to really talk myself into buying something, even at $.99 cents a pop. Yup, I'm that stingy.

With my sister and brother-in-law giving me a $15 card for Christmas, I proceeded to purchase the following songs. And as much as I refuse to call these "guilty pleasures," they're definitely not songs in genres that I often listen to.

Queensryche, "Silent Lucidity" (video)
While Nirvana, Metallica and Pearl Jam dominated MTV's playlist in late 1991, this was a different kind of rock song that got equally heavy rotation. I can't say I pine for much Queensryche beyond this, but there's a reason why I play its intro on guitar whenever there's one in my hands.

Slipknot, "Before I Forget" (video)
Credit goes to Guitar Hero III for reminding me of this song. A little less intense compared to the band's other material, but it's just a great hooky song -- complete with double-bass drumming! Playing this song on Guitar Hero definitely makes for a more pleasant experience compared to playing Red Faction with Iowa on. Something just really creeps me out with shooting monsters and martians while hearing a line like "I wanna slit your throat and fuck the wound."

Santana featuring Michelle Branch, "Game of Love" (video)
My time working at Best Buy subjected me to numerous hearings of Santana's collaboration with Rob Thomas, "Smooth." It was an inescapable song that I wasn't fond of when I first heard it and that opinion didn't change the more I heard it. Now, Santana's follow-up album to Supernatural came with this collaboration with Michelle Branch -- a song I dug quite a bit and still dig. Essentially just two chords, but sometimes that's all you need.

R. Kelly featuring T.I. and T-Pain, "I'm a Flirt" (video)
Looking past R. Kelly's arrogance in the lyrics and T-Pain's voice heavily processed through a Vocoder, this song is pretty infectious. Once again, it's essentially two chords, but they work well with the beat.